HARMFUL cultural practices across the globe have contributed to violence, abuse and exploitation of children.
Millions of children, especially the
girl – child is subjected to practices such as child labour, child marriage and female genital mutilation, among others.
Adding to this, UNESCO reported that nine percent of primary school-age children are not in school.
Education is considered a human right but in some societies it is seen as a priviledge.
Children continue to be victims of some cultural and religious practices as well as greediness of their parents and care givers who regard children as sources of acquiring wealth and a better lifestyle.
This has contributed to children being subjected to working in various places that include farms and mines.
In most towns in Zimbabwe, some children are being abused as beggars in the streets while others are turned into waste pickers for recycling purposes.
Poverty is cited as one of the major reasons some children are deprived of their right to education, while on the other hand, ignorance and belief in some religious practices has resulted in child marriages.
Migration in search of greener pastures is also another reason causing family disintegration, leaving children in the hands of people who can abuse them sexually, mentally and physically.
It is against this background and more that contributed to UNICEF embarking on a mission to protect children by offering funding which will support different key interventions to protect children against violence, abuse and exploitation.
Her Excellency Ms Åsa Pehrson, the Ambassador of Sweden to Zimbabwe and Dr Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF representative in Zimbabwe, recently signed a funding agreement of US$5,8 million to support child protection programmes in Zimbabwe.
The funding comes at a time cases of children experiencing various forms of violence, exploitation and abuse worldwide are on the rise.
It is sad to note that violence against children is happening in places they should be most protected – their homes and schools.
And in many cases, children suffer at the hands of the people they trust.
Zimbabwe has made substantial strides on many child protection issues including the recent adoption of legislation criminalising child marriages, progress in the level of birth registration and the roll-out of a child friendly justice system.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Simon Masanga said: “The Government of Zimbabwe is committed to addressing all forms of violence against children to ensure that every child grows in a safe, secure and protective environment.
“Our aim is to create a Zimbabwe fit for children through strategic partnerships and to expand child protection financing through the Child Protection Fund.
“Government expresses its gratitude to the people of Sweden for the continued financial support towards the protection of vulnerable persons Zimbabwe over the years.
“The support rendered today will go a long way in improving the wellbeing of children, particularly those who are marginalised and vulnerable.”
Through the US$5,8 million funding to UNICEF, Sweden will support the efforts of the Government of Zimbabwe in five programme areas that are critical to protect children against violence, abuse and exploitation.
The five programme areas include:
- Access to response services for the most vulnerable children through the National Case Management System;
- Prevention of Violence Against Children and Gender Based Violence through interventions that address harmful practices, social and gender norms and behavioural drivers of violence;
- Access to justice for children;
- Access to birth registration services; and
- Policy, legal and regulatory framework improvements.
“Sweden believes that an efficient protection is essential to the children’s well-being because, as vulnerable people, they are more exposed to issues of mistreatment, exploitation, discrimination and violence,” said Ambassador Åsa Pehrson.
The funding will be used primarily in 10 districts that include Binga, Chiredzi, Bulilima, Buhera, Zvishavane, Mbire, Epworth, Beitbridge, Mutasa and Bulawayo.
Key deprivation factors that contributed to the selection of districts are urban, rural, and peri-urban locations; poorest and vulnerable districts; districts prone to climate shocks; and remote districts to address the leave no-one behind dimension.
The Swedish funding is part of the Child Protection Fund III, a multi-donor fund mechanism which is open to all partners interested in supporting the efforts of the Government of Zimbabwe to provide a safe and secure protective environment for children to grow up in.
Commenting on Sweden, Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said: “Sweden has been a long-term partner and donor to the protection sector in Zimbabwe.
“We are grateful to the Government of Sweden for this new contribution that will enable the fulfillment and realisation of children’s rights to protection in Zimbabwe. We hope that many other countries will soon follow Sweden’s example and join the Child Protection Fund.”
Child protection issues remain a concern across the globe because according to UNICEF the facts are:
- One third of women (aged 20-24 years) married before age 18;
- Child marriage rates are driven by poverty and fueled by social norms;
- Thirty five percent of children (5-17 years) are in child labour;
- Thirteen percent of children are working under hazardous conditions and
- Over 51 percent of children are not registered at birth.